For the first 30 minutes of Ohio’s game against High Point in the first round of the WNIT, something didn’t feel right.
Sure, the Bobcats were in the postseason and were arguably the best team to make the WNIT, but what was the point? Ohio failed to win the Mid-American Conference Championship Game five days ago and missed out on the NCAA Tournament two days later.
But all Ohio needed to push away those frustrations was another close game. The Bobcats entered Thursday still upset about their misfortunes from the past week, but they shook them off in the fourth quarter to beat High Point, 81-74, at The Convo. The victory also gave Ohio a program-record 28 wins in one season.
“It’s been my dream to go to the NCAA Tournament since I was 10 years old,” Dominique Doseck said. “We’re all angry. We’re all disappointed. But I feel like we’re trying to prove something.”
Before the Bobcats could prove they should advance to the next round of the WNIT, they needed to prove to themselves they wanted to be in the tournament. It helped that Ohio was playing at The Convo, but not even its home felt like home when the Bobcats took the floor to start the game.
That’s because High Point did as much as it could to make The Convo feel like a neutral site. The Panthers brought cheerleaders, dozens of fans and their own band, which pushed Ohio’s Marching 110 to the other end of the court.
Again, something didn’t feel right for Ohio.
“They seemed way louder than our fans,” Cece Hooks said. “It was weird. We were like, ‘Uh, they’re trying to throw us off our game.’”
The oddness was evident in Ohio’s performance. The Bobcats entered the fourth quarter down 61-58, and their offense that powered through MAC opponents was now struggling to score points against a team from the Big South Conference.
The frustrations of the past week were still in the minds of the Bobcats, who were 10 minutes away from ending their season. They needed things to feel normal again. They just didn’t know how.
But as the clock ticked down, Ohio heated up. The Bobcats’ defense suddenly looked impenetrable and held the Panthers to just four field goals in the fourth quarter. On the other end, Ohio exploded for 23 points and wore out High Point with aggressive drives and timely 3s.
Sound familiar? It should.
That’s what Ohio looked like two weeks ago when it won the MAC East Division, and that’s what it looked like in its first two games — both blowouts — of the MAC Tournament.
“At this point, you’re either going to go out and try, or your season is over,” coach Bob Boldon said. “It’s pretty black and white.”
Ohio was back. It might not have been in the tournament it had hoped for a week ago or in front of the same homey atmosphere it expected when it received another game in The Convo, but things felt normal again.
The frustrations were pushed aside because the Bobcats had no other option but to play. They just didn’t realize it until there were 10 minutes left.
The scoreboard said its season was close to the end. Ohio wasn’t ready for that yet.
Ohio will host Middle Tennessee State on Sunday inside The Convo for the second round of the WNIT. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.